Posts Tagged ‘Leyla Yunus’

Azerbaijan: constitutional referendum on 26 September will surely pass but not the human rights muster

September 24, 2016

Michel Forst (right), the UN special rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, addressing reporters in Baku on September 22.
Michel Forst (right), the UN special rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders (right), addressing reporters in Baku on 22 September 2016.
Michel Forst, the UN’s special rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, said on 22 September 2016 that Azerbaijani authorities have applied crippling pressure to journalists and rights activists critical of the government, and made it virtually impossible for nongovernmental organizations to operate. “Civil society has been paralyzed as a result of such intense pressure,” Forst said as he wrapped up a nine-day visit to the South Caucasus nation to assess the situation. Observing that most of the recommendations by the international and regional human rights mechanisms have yet to be implemented by the Government of Azerbaijan, Mr Forst strongly called for establishing a mechanism that would result in a plan of action to implement those outstanding recommendations. He urged the Government to “to build bridges with civil society organizations, and to establish a regular and meaningful dialogue with human rights defenders, ensuring broad and inclusive participation. I believe such dialogue and partnership is ultimately in the interest of the Azerbaijani State”. [for the full end of mission statement see: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=20544&LangID=E
Human rights defenders have been accused by public officials to be a fifth column of the Western governments, or foreign agents, which has led to misperception in the population of the truly valuable role played by civil society,” Forst added.
He was served immediately by Azerbaijani MP and editor-in-chief of the New Azerbaijan newspaper, Hikmat Babaoghlu, who told APA that “the Western imperialism has launched an attack on Azerbaijan with its entire network, which includes radical opposition groups, numerous local and international “civil society instructions” and “human rights defenders”. All these are taking place before the eyes of the Azerbaijani people, who are well aware of what is happening. Therefore, the destructive plan of imperialist centers will never succeed in Azerbaijan”  The main goal of the upcoming referendum is to better ensure the national security and the transition of development to a qualitatively new stage, he added. (Even more scathing is a piece written by Elmira Tariverdiyeva, the head of Trend Agency’s Russian news service – see link below.)
Forst’s report indeed comes just days ahead of a referendum (26 September) on changes to Azerbaijan’s constitution that critics say will tighten Aliyev’s grip on power, which he has held since 2003. The proposed amendments to the Constitution would further strengthen the already powerful president, including a longer presidential term, the authority to declare early presidential elections at will and dissolve parliament. The amendments will also lead to violations of the right to freedom of association. While in practice, public assemblies have already been prohibited in central Baku, the proposed amendments will grant the government even more power to interfere with the freedom of assembly in violation of international standards. The Council of Europe experts said on September 20 that the proposed changes would severely upset the balance of power and give “unprecedented” control to the president. (The head of the legal department in Aliyev’s administration called that assessment “hasty” and “politically driven.”)

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Azerbaijani human rights defenders Leyla and Arif Yunus allowed to leave for the Netherlands

April 19, 2016

Two of Azerbaijan‘s most prominent human rights defenders have arrived in the Netherlands after the authorities in Baku suddenly granted them permission to leave.

Leyla and Arif Yunus in happier times
Leyla and Arif Yunus 
RFE/RL’s Azerbaijani Service reported on 19 April 2016 that Leyla Yunus and her husband, Arif, were greeted by their daughter, Dinara Yunus, who lives in the Netherlands, upon landing at Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport on April 19, according to Dutch media reports. Welcoming the two, Dutch Foreign Minister Bert Koenders said Leyla and Arif Yunus, who are seeking asylum in the Netherlands, “had put their own safety and happiness at stake in the struggle for democracy and human rights“.

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One of Azerbaijan’s key human rights defenders, Leyla Yunus, freed – now the others

December 10, 2015

 

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Today was OXI Day in Greece: worth an award or two

October 29, 2015

The short video tells why Greece celebrates every 28 October “Oxi Day“. At 3:00 am on October 28, 1940, a representative of the Axis Forces arrived at the Greek Prime Minister’s residence and demanded Greece’s surrender. The Prime Minister replied with a single word: Oxi [No].

Within hours, the Axis forces descended on Greece, expecting it to quickly fall. But the Greek resistance forced Hitler to change his plans. News of Greece’s victory flooded the radio airwaves and covered the front pages of newspapers and magazines around the globe – no one expected such a small nation to derail the seemingly unstoppable Axis forces. Greece forced Hitler to change his timeline and delaying the attack on Russia. Greece’s actions inspired Winston Churchill to say “If there had not been the virtue and courage of the Greeks, we do not know which the outcome of World War II would have been.”

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Human Rights Defenders in Azerbaijan: Human Rights Council last hope?

September 15, 2015

 

In Azerbaijan, space for independent civil society has disappeared, following a crackdown since the presidential election in October 2013. Ahead of the parliamentary elections in November 2015, all leading civil society actors are either in prison or have fled the country. On 8 September 2015, the UN High Commissioner condemned the ongoing crackdown on civil society and independent voices in Azerbaijan. On 20 August 2015, six UN Special Rapporteurs issued a joint statement condemning the conviction of human rights defenders as “manifestly politically motivated” in a trial that “fell short of international norms and standards.” On 11 September 2015, the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) cancelled its election monitoring in the country due to restrictions imposed by the Azerbaijani authorities. See also: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/tag/azerbaijan/

Clearly time for the Human Rights Council to step in!

Several NGOs, led by the Human Rights House Foundation, are organizing a side event in Geneva on Wednesday 16 September, from 17:00 – 18:00. Palais des Nations Room XXIV. English / Russian translation is provided.HRHFlogo

SPEAKERS

DINARA YUNUS Institute for Peace and Democracy & Daughter of political prisoners Leyla Yunus and Arif Yunus

SERGHEI OSTAF Resource Centre for Human Rights Moldova; Observer of many of the hearings this summer of various human rights defenders imprisoned in Azerbaijan

EMIN HUSEYNOV Institute for Reporter’s Freedom and Safety

Moderation: FLORIAN IRMINGER

 

Human rights defender Emin Huseynov allowed to leave Azerbaijan!

June 15, 2015

One ‘winner’ of the Baku Games is known: Front Line reports that on 13 June 2015, human rights defender Mr Emin Huseynov left Azerbaijan, ending his 10 month-long refuge in the Swiss embassy in Baku. [see: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2015/02/12/azerbaijani-human-rights-defender-emin-huseynov-hides-in-swiss-embassy/. Read the rest of this entry »

UN, Council of Europe and OSCE ask Azerbaijan to free human rights defenders ahead of 2015 Baku Games

June 4, 2015

Every time I now see one of the many flashy television announcements for the Baku Games starting next week, I have to think of the human rights defenders in detention there. So the effortd by many NGOs and experts to link the holding of these Games to Azerbaijan’s terrible human rights record seem to bear fruit. I have written myself several times along these lines [recently: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2015/04/21/azerbaijan-a-formula-for-combining-sports-and-repression/], so I will not repeat all the arguments. Just to note that several heavyweights have added their voices: Read the rest of this entry »

Azerbaijan continues to ‘play the game’

April 28, 2015

Azerbaijan plays the game: Under pressure from a variety of sources to reduce its widespread repression of human rights defenders in the run up to the European Games [see my latest post: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2015/04/21/azerbaijan-a-formula-for-combining-sports-and-repression/], the authorities seems to have decided to give in a tiny bit (see two examples below) and continue for the rest with heavy-handed sentencing of human rights defenders:

– On 18 March 2015, Azerbaijan President Ilham Aliyev pardoned 101 prisoners, including Bashir Suleymanli, co-founder of the Election Monitoring and Democracy Studies Centre (EMDSC). Whilst welcoming Suleymanli’s release, on 19 March, the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (FIDH-OMCT) remains deeply concerned by the ongoing arbitrary detention of other prominent human rights defenders in Azerbaijan, including Anar Mammadli, chairman of the EMDSC, arrested on the same day, who remains currently detained. The EMDSC – which Azeri authorities have always refused to register – has been leading electoral monitoring activities in Azerbaijan since 2008.

–  On 24 April 2015, the head of the United Nation’s Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture (SPT), Aisha Shujune Muhammad, announced that her four-member delegation had successfully conducted investigations of Azerbaijani prisons, police stations and investigative isolation units. “The Azerbaijani Government this time enabled unhindered access to places of deprivation of liberty,” said a statement published by the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights. While welcoming the government’s cooperation, Muhammad added, “[The] State party has yet to guarantee all fundamental legal and procedural safeguards to persons deprived of their liberty, including access to a lawyer, a medical doctor, and to contact his or her family.” [As a state party to the Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture, Azerbaijan is obliged to allow independent experts full access to sites of detention, but last September the SPT was forced to suspend its visit after being prevented from inspecting some sites and barred from completing its work at others, “in violation of Azerbaijan’s treaty obligations”]

But then – if you think it finally goes in the right direction – on the 22 April a Court in Baku sentenced human rights defender Mr Intigam Aliyev to seven and a half years imprisonment on trumped-up charges. For more on Intigam Aliyev see: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/tag/intigam-aliyev/]. Many NGOs and governments condemned the sentencing including the EU (“The sentence of seven and a half years imprisonment and a further three-year ban on holding public office handed down to prominent human rights lawyer Intigam Aliyev by an Azerbaijani Court is a further demonstration of the increasingly difficult  situation faced by human rights defenders in Azerbaijan. This harsh sentence is disproportionate to the alleged offences, while serious shortcomings witnessed by international monitors during the trial raise fundamental questions as to the legality of these procedures.“)

Several important NGOs, including Amnesty International,Human Rights Watch, the Observatory on Human Rights Defenders (FIDH/OMCT) and Front Line Defenders, have pointed out that serious rights allegations have been escalating since 2012 as Azerbaijan is gearing up to host the first-ever European Games under the auspices of the Olympic Movement. [Over 6,000 athletes representing 50 countries from 12-28 June 2015; according to the London-based Business News Europe, the games are budgeted at an estimated eight billion dollars, and billed as the “most spectacular show in Azerbaijan’s history.”]

While the government of President Ilham Aliyev hopes to use the games to spotlight his country’s economic development, rights groups are pushing the European Olympic Committees and key National Olympic Committees to instead shift the focus onto human rights abuses and political prisoners. The Sports and Rights Alliance, urged the IOC to use its leverage with Azerbaijan to, among other things, demand the immediate and unconditional release of rights activists like Khajida Ismayilova, Leyla Yunus, Arif Yunus, Intigam Aliyev, Rasul Jafarov, Rauf Mirgadirov, Anar Mammadli, Ilgar Mammadov, and Tofig Yagulblu.

Those participating in the European games being funded by the Azerbaijani government have a real obligation to speak out,” Buchanan of Human Rights Watch stressed.

Azerbaijan activist released after almost 10 months’ arbitrary detention – ALIRAN.

http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/04/u-n-committee-gets-unhindered-access-to-azerbaijans-detention-centres-but-is-it-enough/

https://iwpr.net/global-voices/azerbaijan-convictions-dont-convince

http://www.channel4.com/news/baku-european-games-azerbaijan-aliyev-human-rights-team-gb

Two Giorgis speak about Azerbaijan’s continued refusal to play fair

April 3, 2015

From many sources including this blog [https://thoolen.wordpress.com/tag/azerbaijan/], we know that Azerbaijan is a leader in the category ‘crime does pay’. For a more general article on this topic see: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/20140603192912-22083774–crime-should-not-pay-in-the-area-of-international-human-rights.

During the last 2 days of March 2015 it decided to detain a Georgian trial observer in the airport. As ‘non co-operation’ (to use a euphemism) tends to get underreported – which is exactly why it is so attractive –  here in full the interview which Giorgi Lomsadze of EurasiaNet.org had with the Giorgi Godia, the Human Rights Watch’s South-Caucasus representative who is the one who came to observe the trials of imprisoned human-rights lawyer Intigam Aliyev and rights-activist Rasul Jafarov. [The Azerbaijani government, as yet, has not provided a reason for Gogia’s detention and subsequent deportation back home.] Azerbaijan may be willing to host sports events, but fair play is not part of it.

Human Rights Day: exceptional chance to put questions to 3 women human rights defenders

December 9, 2014

To mark Human Rights Day tomorrow, Wednesday 10 December, the Guardian organises a live chat with three women human rights defenders who will answer your questions on their campaigning work and the challenges they face in uncovering abuses. The panel looks most promising:

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